Which of the three Finnish candidates will be elected European Capital of Culture for 2026? The decision will be made in early June. Now is the time to answer the most common questions about the Capital of Culture bid.
The basic question. Why does Tampere want to be the European Capital of Culture?
“Throughout its independence, Tampere has considered culture to be one of the most important heralds of civilization. It is visible and heard in our theaters, literature, music and, indeed, sports. There are many activities that Europe would be interested in if they knew about them: the European Capital of Culture year opens the door for all of us and creates good things around art and other economic structures. It is time to open those pathways by developing our culture, which is why there is a clear need for this year”, says Perttu Pesä, project director.
In the first stage of the competition, all three Finnish candidates, Oulu, Tampere and Savonlinna, were allowed to continue. Which of those three candidates was the best in the first round?
It has not been determined by the jury. The international jury that made the selection drew up a report on Finland’s applications. The report can be read at this link. The jury was also very critical of Tampere’s application, for example: “The bid has strong elements, but there are several major shortcomings that need to be overcome in the final round. Whilst interesting per se and having potentially a strong European resonance, the concept of “quality by equality” should be better explained, in particular how it is rooted in the local
context and needs, instead of being used as a very general motto that sometimes seems to the panel too much deprived of a concrete substance.”
And so on. Admittedly, the jury was equally critical of all three applications.
In addition to Tampere, Oulu and Savonlinna are still involved in the search. What is the competition situation?
The situation is completely open. Each city prepares a search book, the content of which is still secret. The election will not be announced until June 2.
What will happen before the final election in June?
The new application book will be submitted to the Ministry of Culture at the end of April. If the Covid permits, the jury will visit the candidate cities in May. The jury will also interview the candidate cities.
What chances do Oulu and Savonlinna have against Tampere? As a Finnish city of culture, Tampere is quite remarkable? There are theaters, and Moomin museums, and a high-end Philharmonic and whatever?
Competitors have a good chance, as the competition rules do not award the title to the city on the basis of its cultural heritage or current vibrant cultural offerings. The title is not given on the basis of what the city is now, but on why it wants to come. The ECoC Year is a development project. It is not an award for past achievements, but an incentive for the city that needs the title the most and knows how to justify the need.
The EU guidelines for applicant cities formulate this idea quite clearly. “Some candidates have submitted bids by pulling together their existing cultural activities under an “ECOC” banner. They were not successful.”
What is this much talked about bid book?
The bid book is simply Tampere’s application for the European Capital of Culture. The first bid book was made last year. A second, final search book is now being written. It will be a 100-page document that answers the questions posed by the EU.
What are the questions in the bid book?
There are about 40 questions. At the heart of the questions is a cultural program planned for the ECoC year.
In addition, it is necessary to find out, for example, the city’s cultural strategy and the conditions for the city and region to organize an SME year. Is there enough accommodation capacity, are there transport links to Europe? Does the project has the support of citizens and decision-makers? We need to clarify budgets, governance models and marketing strategies – everything possible.
With Tampere, 19 municipalities in Pirkanmaa are applying for the title. Why is only Tampere the official applicant and the surrounding municipalities are not usually mentioned?
According to the rules, the official applicant is always one city. For example, Tartu in Estonia will be the Capital of Culture in 2024, but almost all of southern Estonia will be involved. Of the Finnish competitors, Oulu includes 32 northern municipalities. Savonlinna’s application includes Kuopio, Lappeenranta, Joensuu and Mikkeli, among others.
How to ensure that municipalities are not forgotten in the preparation of the program?
Ideas have been sought from the municipalities, and the project steering group has a strong representation of the municipalities. “In our programming, we have tried to create and take forward projects that several municipalities would do together and that would thus spread throughout the province,” describes Pauli Sivonen, a member of the search’s artistic management team. He encourages looking past the individual “program numbers” of municipalities towards common goals.
What is the budget for the Capital of Culture?
The budgets for the ECoC years are usually EUR 25-70 million. A budget of EUR 53 million has been drafted for Tampere’s first application book. In general, about 40 percent of the total budget comes from the applicant communities. Another 40% comes from the state and the remaining 20% comes from EU and business cooperation. The situation is alive because the state has not yet announced its contribution.
The project is expensive. Why should the municipalities of Tampere and Pirkanmaa spend millions on it?
The project will bring significant external funding to the region from the state, the EU and business. The money invested also comes back with interest.
The budget for the Danish European Capital of Culture year 2017 in Aarhus was EUR 66 million. According to the study, it resulted in an increase of EUR 159 million in turnover for business in the central Danish region, mainly in the tourism sector, and 1,965 jobs. Turku was also successful in 2011. Turku’s budget was 55 million, which brought the economic area an increase of 260 million in the turnover of companies.
In recent years, rather unknown cities have been chosen as Capitals of Culture. To be honest, the real Capitals of Culture should be found on the list of Paris, Rome, Berlin and Vienna?
Rome and Vienna have not been European Capitals of Culture. And maybe they wouldn’t get the title! Indeed, the rules state that “A city is not awarded the title based on its cultural heritage or its current vibrant cultural offerings”. These are great cities, but they don’t need a title. These, too, would require a bid book – and something new to offer.
In Germany, there were well-known, significant cities, such as Hannover and Nuremberg, nominated for the Capital of Culture 2025. Both seriously invested in the search project, but the title of Capital of Culture was given to Chemnitz, the twin city of Tampere, known as the former Karl-Marx-Stadt. In terms of cultural offerings, it doesn’t get to the level of bigger cities, but Chemnitz presented a credible project in their bid book. They convinced the jury that Chemnitz needed the title.
Perhaps the designation “European Capital of Culture” can be considered somehow misleading. After all, the race is not looking for a city that has a great cultural offerings right now, but a city that wants to develop with the help of culture and develop culture.
What if Tampere is not chosen? Was all the work wasted?
No. The so-called Plan B is being prepared, that is, if Tampere is not chosen, a cultural program will be implemented, but of course in a much smaller way. Applying has already brought a lot of good things to Tampere and Pirkanmaa, such as new forms of cooperation.